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A Primer on Medicare Targeted Probe and Educate Reviews

Targeted Probe and Educate (TPE) reviews are a popular audit tool for Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to assess a healthcare provider or supplier’s compliance with Medicare billing requirements. A TPE review consists of up to three rounds of claims review, with education to the provider after each round. A provider or supplier navigating a TPE review should take care to comply with the program’s requirements and timelines and should be aware of the potential consequences of a review.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) initially introduced TPE reviews as a pilot program in only a few jurisdictions. In 2017, CMS expanded the program nationwide and has continued to update and refine the program since its introduction.

A provider who is placed on a TPE review will first receive a Notice of Review letter. This letter will describe the reason that the provider has been placed on TPE review and will provide a brief outline of the process. This letter will not request medical records but will generally indicate that medical records requests will be forthcoming. This letter will likely warn that, if a provider/supplier fails to improve the accuracy of its claims after three rounds, the MAC will refer the provider/supplier to CMS for additional action, such as prepayment review, extrapolation of overpayments, referral to a RAC, or other disciplinary action. Providers should be aware that a TPE can lead to revocation of Medicare billing privileges and placement on the CMS Preclusion List.

The provider will next receive a series of additional documentation requests (ADRs) for between 20 and 40 claims. These ADRs may not indicate that they are pursuant to the TPE review and may be indistinguishable from any other ADRs that a provider receives. Failure to respond to the ADRs will likely result in claim denials. After the provider submits the documentation, the MAC is required to provide direct one-on-one education to the provider. The MAC will then issue a letter that outlines its findings. If a high number of claims are denied, the MAC will proceed to a second round of review of 20-40 claims and education. If a high number of claims are denied again, the MAC will proceed to a third round.

A provider should not take a TPE review lightly, as CMS may construe high levels of denials after three rounds as a “pattern or practice” of noncompliant billing that is grounds for revocation of billing privileges. A provider should also keep careful records of communications with the MAC conducting the review. Moreover, it is important to appeal claims that were denied during the TPE review within the normal claims appeal timeframes. By the time a provider is appealing a revocation based on a TPE review, the deadlines to appeal the claims have often long passed and CMS may treat the denials as final.

For over 35 years, Wachler & Associates has represented healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide in a variety of health law matters, and our attorneys can assist providers and suppliers in navigating or appealing a TPE review. If you or your healthcare entity has any questions pertaining to healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or

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